A Day of God’s Power With The Prophet Joseph

From the journal of Wilford Woodruff.

 

While I was living in this cabin in the old barracks, we experienced a day of God’s power with the Prophet Joseph.  The large number of saints who had been driven out of Missouri were flocking into Commerce [afterwards named Nauvoo]; many were sick through the exposure they were subjected to.  Brother Joseph had waited on the sick until he was worn out and nearly sick himself.

On the morning of the 22nd of July, 1839, he arose and called upon the Lord in prayer, and the power of God rested upon him mightily – Jospeh the Prophet of God healed all around on this occasion.  He healed all in his house; then, in company with Sidney Rigdon and several of the Twelve he went among the sick and he commanded them in a loud voice, in the name of Jesus Christ, to come up and be made whole, and they were all healed.

When he had healed all that were sick on the east side of the river, they crossed the Mississippi to Montrose. They first went into Brigham Young’s house and healed him.  As they were passing by my door, Brother Joseph said:  “Brother Woodruff, follow me.”  When we entered the house of Brother Fordham, Brother Fordham had been dying for an hour, and we expected each minute to be his last.  Brother Joseph walked up to Brother Fordham, and took him by the right hand.  Brother Fordham’s eyes were glazed and he was speechless and unconscious.  Joseph said, “Brother Fordham, do you not know me?”  He again said, “Elijah, do you not know me?”  With a low whisper, Brother Fordham answered, “Yes!”

The Prophet then said, “Have you not faith to be healed?”  The answer was, “I am afraid it is too late.  If you had come sooner, I think I might have been.”  He had the appearance of a man waking from the sleep of death.  Joseph then said, “Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ?”  “I do, Brother Joseph.” was the response.  The the Prophet of God spoke with a loud voice: “Elijah, I command you, in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, to arise and be made whole!”  The words of the Prophet were not like the words of man, but like the voice of God.  Elijah Fordham leaped from his bed like a man raised from the dead.  A healthy colour came to his face, and life was manifested in every act.  His feet were done up in Indian meal poultices.  He kicked them off his feet, and then called for his clothes and put them on.  He asked for a bowl of bread and milk and ate it; then put on his hat and followed us into the street.  THrough the blessing of God, Elijah Fordham lived up til 1880, in which year he died in Utah.

Intimations of the Martyrdom by Apostles Abroad

At the time of the death of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, the Apostles were located in various parts of the country.

Brigham Young, Orson Hyde, and Wilford Woodruff were in Boston.

Heber C. Kimball and Lyman Wight had left Philadelphia and were traveling to New York. William Smith at some point joined them, and they continued to Boston for an appointed conference that was held on 29 June. Seven members of the Twelve were present at the conference—Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, William Smith, Orson Pratt, Wilford Woodruff, and Lyman Wight.

Parley P. Pratt was returning to Nauvoo and was on a canal boat between Utica and Buffalo, New York.

George A. Smith was staying with members of the Church near Jacksonburg, Michigan.

Amasa Lyman was in Cincinnati.

The location of Orson Pratt on 27 June is not known, but on 29 June he attended the conference in Boston, so he must have been fairly close to Boston on the day of the Martyrdom.

John E. Page had been in Pittsburgh, where he edited and published the Gospel Light from June 1843 to May 1844. His exact location is not known, but in all probability he was in Pittsburgh or the surrounding area.

John Taylor and Willard Richards were in Carthage.

On the day of the Martyrdom, members of the Twelve were depressed and melancholic without knowing why. Elders Heber C. Kimball and Lyman Wight were traveling between Philadelphia and New York City when Elder Kimball felt mournful, as if he had just lost a friend. In Boston, Orson Hyde was examining maps in the hall rented by the Church when he felt a heavy and sorrowful spirit come upon him. Tears ran down his cheeks as he turned from the maps and paced the floor. In Michigan, George A. Smith was plagued with a depressed spirit and foreboding thoughts all day long. When he retired to bed he could not sleep. He said that “Once it seemed to him that some fiend whispered in his ear, ‘Joseph and Hyrum are dead; ain’t you glad of it?’” 5

5. History of the Church, 7:133; see also pp. 132–33.

Two days before the Martyrdom, Parley P. Pratt was moved upon by the Spirit to start home from New York State and coincidentally met his brother William on a canal boat on the day of the tragedy. Parley wrote that as they talked, “a strange and solemn awe came over me, as if the powers of hell were let loose. I was so overwhelmed with sorrow I could hardly speak. . . . ‘Let us observe an entire and solemn silence, for this is a dark day, and the hour of triumph for the powers of darkness. O, how sensible I am of the spirit of murder which seems to prevade the whole land.’” 6

6. Parley P. Pratt, Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, Classics in Mormon Literature series (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985), p. 292.

In sorrow Elder Pratt walked 105 miles across the plains of Illinois, hardly able to eat or sleep, wondering how he should “meet the entire community bowed down with grief and unutterable sorrow.” He prayed for assistance. “On a sudden the Spirit of God came upon me, and filled my heart with joy and gladness indescribable; and while the spirit of revelation glowed in my bosom with as visible a warmth and gladness as if it were fire. The Spirit said unto me: . . . ‘Go and say unto my people in Nauvoo, that they shall continue to pursue their daily duties and take care of themselves, and make no movement in Church government to reorganize or alter anything until the return of the remainder of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. But exhort them that they continue to build the House of the Lord which I have commanded them to build in Nauvoo.’” 8 Arriving in Nauvoo on 8 July, Parley helped Elders Richards and Taylor keep order in the stricken community.

George A. Smith learned of the Martyrdom from a newspaper account in Michigan on 13 July. At first he thought it a hoax, but when the report was confirmed, he hastened home with his three missionary companions. Overcome by worry and fatigue, he broke out in hives over his entire body. He could not even eat, but he traveled on, arriving in Nauvoo on 27 July. Soon he was meeting in council with the three Apostles already there. 9

In Boston rumors of Joseph Smith’s death began on 9 July. 10 During the week before confirmation came from family letters and more complete newspaper accounts, Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, and Orson Pratt struggled within themselves about what the terrible news meant. Brigham recorded in his journal, “The first thing which I thought of was, whether Joseph had taken the keys of the kingdom with him from the earth; brother Orson Pratt sat on my left; we were both leaning back on our chairs. Bringing my hand down on my knee, I said the keys of the kingdom are right here with the Church.” 11

Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Pratt, Wilford Woodruff, and Lyman Wight contacted each other, joined together, and hastened home by railway, stagecoach, boat, and buggy. Subsequent events proved the wisdom of their haste. They arrived in Nauvoo the evening of 6 August. Wilford Woodruff recorded his feelings:

“When we landed in the city there was a deep gloom seemed to rest over the City of Nauvoo which we never experienced before.

“. . . We were received with gladness by the Saints throughout the city. They felt like sheep without a shepherd, as being without a father, as their head had been taken away.” 12

12. Wilford Woodruff Journals, 6–7 Aug. 1844, LDS Historical Department, Salt Lake City; spelling, punctuation, and capitalization standardized.

Joseph Identifies the Skeletal Remains of Zelph, a Lamanite Warrior

On 2 June 1834 the army crossed the Illinois River at Phillips Ferry. The Prophet and a few others walked along the bluffs and found a huge mound with human bones scattered about and what appeared to be the remains of three ancient altars. A hole was dug and a large human skeleton was discovered with a stone arrowhead between its ribs. As the brethren left the hill, the Prophet inquired of the Lord and learned in an open vision that the remains were those of a man named Zelph, a former Lamanite warrior chieftain who was killed “during the last great struggle of the Lamanites and Nephites.” 19

19. History of the Church, 2:80.

The published history of Zion’s Camp gives an account of the bones of a man which we dug out of a mound. His name was Zelph. The Lord showed the Prophet the history of the man in a vision. The arrow, by which he was killed, was found among his bones. One of his thigh bones was broken by a stone slung in battle. The bone was put into my wagon, and I carried it to Clay County, Missouri, and buried it in the earth.

Wilford Woodruf, Leaves From My Journal, p. 11

Joseph Smith Sr.’s Vision of the Tree of Life

Joseph Smith’s father had a vision similar in many ways to Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life:

Later in 1811, Joseph, Sr., experienced a second profound dream that related to his family. It was much like Lehi’s dream of the tree of life. He found himself following a path to a beautiful fruit tree. As he began to eat the delicious fruit, he realized that he must bring his wife and family to the tree so they could enjoy it together. He went and brought them, and they began to eat. He reported that “We were exceedingly happy, insomuch that our joy could not easily be expressed.” 21

Religious Philosophy of Asael Smith

Asael Smith [1744-1830] was the paternal grandfather of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Asael’s philosophy agreed with that of the Universalists, who believed in Jesus Christ as a god of love who would save all of his children. Like all Universalists, Asael was more comfortable with a god who was more interested in saving than in destroying mankind. He believed that life continued after death.

In an address to his family, Asael wrote: “The soul is immortal. . . . Do all to God in a serious manner. When you think of him, speak of him, pray to him, or in any way make your addresses to his great majesty, be in good earnest. . . . And as to religion, study the nature of religion, and see whether it consists in outward formalities, or in the hidden man of the heart. . . .

“Sure I am my Savior, Christ, is perfect, and never will fail in one circumstance. To him I commit your souls, bodies, estates, names, characters, lives, deaths and all—and myself, waiting when he shall change my vile body and make it like his own glorious body.” 3

Asael Smith also predicted that “God was going to raise up some branch of his family to be a great benefit to mankind.” 4 Many years later when his son Joseph Smith, Sr., gave him a recently published Book of Mormon, he was vitally interested. George A. Smith recorded, “My grandfather Asael fully believed the Book of Mormon, which he read nearly through.” 5 Asael died in the fall of 1830, confident that his grandson Joseph was the long-anticipated prophet and that he had heralded in a new religious age.